A Worthy Successor

After the death of Moses, the responsibility of leading the tribes of Israel into the land that was promised to their ancestors fell upon Joshua, of the tribe of Ephraim. Like his predecessor, Joshua possessed all the qualities of a leader, general, and teacher, required for the arduous undertaking of conquering the Land of Canaan and settling the Jews there. We may imagine with what fear Joshua viewed his task. Had not his teacher Moses forfeited the fruits of his leadership at the very threshold of the Promised Land? What could Joshua expect? What did the future hold for him, a man of eighty-two, who was going to start on such a vigorous campaign? All these fears, however, were soon allayed. For had not G‑d told him: "No man shall be able to stand up before thee all the days of thy life"? Joshua knew that as long as he adhered to the Torah and its teachings, he would be successful.

One month after Moses' death, the Jews prepared themselves for the invasion of Canaan. Announcing his intention to conquer the land promised by G‑d to the children of Israel, Joshua sent an ultimatum to the inhabitants, offering them three choices: to leave the land, surrender and declare peace, or stand up and fight. The native tribe of the Girgoshites accepted the first condition. However, thirty-one kings chose to fight.

The Two Spies

Joshua then sent two spies, Pinehas and Caleb, to obtain first-hand information as to how the Canaanites were receiving the news of the impending invasion. The men went and came to the inn of Rahab, in the wall of the city of Jericho. When the news of their arrival reached the king, he at once sent messengers to Rahab, and bade her give up the strangers; but Rahab had hidden them on the roof of her house, and when the king's messengers came, she told them that the men had left her at dusk, and had departed from the city, she did not know whither. "Follow after them quickly," she urged with eagerness, "for you shall surely overtake them." Away sped the messengers to the fords near the Jordan. Rahab then went up to the men on the roof and entreated them in these words: "I know that the L-rd has given you the land, and that your terror has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land tremble before you. For we have heard how the L-rd dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts melted; nor did there remain any courage in any man on account of you; for the L-rd your G‑d, He is G‑d in heaven above and on the earth beneath. Now, therefore, I pray you, swear to me by the L-rd, since I have shown you kindness, that you will also show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token; and that you will save my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death."

The men pledged themselves faithfully to remember Rahab and her household. Then Rahab let them down by a rope from the window, over the wall of the city, and bade them hide in the mountains for three days. The men, before leaving her, asked her to tie a scarlet thread in her window, so that the conquerors should know and save her whole family, lest any member of it should unwittingly be injured. Rahab promised to do so, and the men cautiously departed. When they returned to Joshua, it was with the joyful and confident intelligence, "Truly, the L-rd has delivered into our hands all the land, for all the inhabitants of the land tremble before us."